Friday, November 12, 2010

Clinton is coming, but Bush Jr. and Gingrich couldn’t

Former US president Bill Clinton’s visit to Taiwan on Nov. 14, where he will deliver a speech, comes after unsuccessful attempts by former US president George W. Bush and former House speaker Newt Gingrich to visit Taiwan earlier this year

The Taipei Times has learned that Bush had initially intended to visit Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei, but after his office in Dallas, Texas, allegedly received multiple protests from Chinese officials, the former president’s office said Bush could skip Shanghai and Hong Kong altogether and visit only Taiwan.

Chinese officials then allegedly changed their strategy and shifted the pressure onto Taipei, whereupon the latter allegedly asked Bush to reconsider the timing of his visit, in reference to the Nov. 27 elections.

According to a source, Bush’s visit would not have received any funding from the Taiwanese government.

The Taipei Times has also learned that Gingrich’s visit, which would have been sponsored by a private firm, was initially planned for between June and August, and that the former speaker could not come to Taiwan any later than September, given the midterm elections in the US earlier this month.

After a series of delays, organizers allegedly appealed to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Presidential Office, but approval for the visit was received four months later, by which time Gingrich could no longer visit Taiwan.

The above section, which I wrote, is part of an article on Clinton’s visit to Taiwan this coming weekend published today in the Taipei Times.


Brian Schack said...

The seeming denial of entry to Bush and Gingrich does seem suspicious, but I am left wondering why - I don't remember the Bush administration being particularly friendly to Taiwan. They treated Chen Shui-bian like a leper, dragged their feet on arms sales, and were seemingly blind to the KMT shenanigans in the Legislative Yuan. True, they didn't cozy up to China quite as enthusiastically as Clinton, but they didn't strike me as Taiwan's best friend. Why would the KMT have any fears about a Bush visit? And does Newt Gingrich really pose any threat to the KMT, regardless of his position (not that I'm really aware of what his position is)?

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...


Well, one must remember that George W. Bush came into office saying his administration would do “whatever it takes” to defend Taiwan. It was also his administration that okayed most of the weapons sold to Taiwan in recent years (e.g., Oct. 3, 2008, notifications) — including the US$6.4 billion arms package earlier this year. That few weapons were sold Taiwan from 2000-2009 wasn’t so much foot-dragging in the Bush administration as gridlock in the KMT-controlled legislature, which made it impossible for the Chen administration to secure the money it needed to pay for the arms acquisitions.

Also, Bush and Gingrich are Republicans, a party that is often seen as being “friendlier” to Taiwan than the Democrats. In fact, there is reason to believe that, had it not been for the distractions of Sept. 11, 2001, and the focus on the Middle East and South Asia, the Bush administration would have had a stronger pro-Taiwan focus. Now that Bush is no longer in office, he’d probably be more candid in expressing his conservative (and therefore pro-Taiwan) views in public and not be intimidated by Beijing’s rhetoric. With Clinton, the Ma administration (and Beijing) can rest assured that he won’t rock the boat and will very likely express opinions in support of the ECFA and Ma’s cross-strait policies, comments that can then be exploited to fit their agenda. Bush’s behavior is a little more difficult to predict. For his part, Gingrich has long been a very public supporter of Taiwan and has repeated his calls on the US to come to Taiwan’s defense.

Taiwan Echo said...

"In fact, there is reason to believe that, had it not been for the distractions of Sept. 11, 2001, and the focus on the Middle East and South Asia, the Bush administration would have had a stronger pro-Taiwan focus."

That's what I observed, too. In an unexpected twist, Bush's stand of "whatever it takes" to protect Taiwan was quickly replaced by a strategy favoring China.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

Now, that said, some key policymakers in the Bush administration, people like deputy secretary of state Paul Wolfowitz, had long advocated for a Middle East policy based on the overthrowing of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, plans that were set in motion even before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. This means that even without 9/11, the Bush administration would likely have spent a lot of time and energy on the Middle East. However, people like Wolfowitz also had a long history of engagement with Taiwan, which means that US policy on Taiwan and China would also have been a priority. What 9/11 did is provide Wolfowitz and others — the so-called “Vulcans” — with the opportunity they needed to unleash their Middle East plans in an unrestrained fashion. This, however, took the focus away from Taiwan, and with the US bogged down in Afghanistan and needing China’s assent at the UN Security Council (if only for the illusion of having a coalition), Washington became increasingly reliant on Beijing.

In a nutshell, the US under Bush would likely have been friendlier to Taiwan, but that friendship would nevertheless have been restrained by an agenda that also focused on the Middle East. What threw this off course was 9/11.